Your Hams Suck!
Like some of you, I have taken great pride in my quad development and strength. From the front, I always felt my legs could stand next to just about anybody's.
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There are two big lies we bodybuilders tell ourselves over the years:
- "I'm still pretty hard at this weight."
- "My hamstrings are okay."
Lie #1 is a whole other article. This month I want to tackle lie # 2. Like some of you, I have taken great pride in my quad development and strength. From the front, I always felt my legs could stand next to just about anybody's. However, we live in a three-dimensional world where we are sometimes seen from the side. Let me ask you this: when you pose in the mirror, do you ever turn to the side for a side chest or side triceps shot? If so, what do your legs look like from the side? Close your eyes and try to picture them. If you're like I was, you wouldn't quite be able to get that picture. Why? It's because your hamstrings suck, and rather than deal with it, you've suppressed the painful truth.
|BODYBUILDING.COM FORUM: HAMSTRING THREAD|
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Great hamstrings are the rarest of bodyparts, even harder to find in the gym than a back that's fully developed from top to bottom. If you've ever see Flex Wheeler or Kevin Levrone from the side, you know how impressive great hamstrings really are. I always assumed I just didn't have the genetics to build hamstrings to match my quads. It turned out it had nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with how I trained legs. Listen up, because I've watched many bodybuilders train legs over the years, and my style was by no means unique.
I always started leg day with a heavy pressing movement, either squats, leg presses, or hack squats for a few sets. Quads are the show muscle of the thighs, and I certainly wanted to maximize their development. I usually moved on to leg extensions (which I have always performed heavy), then another couple sets of a pressing movement.
Then it was time for hamstrings. Usually an hour or so had gone by, and I was already tired and ready to go home. I would do my leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts with what I thought was an equal amount of effort and focus as my quads, then leave. As years went by and my quads and glutes kept growing, my hamstrings looked weaker and weaker by comparison. About two years ago I decided enough was enough. I finally admitted to myself that my hamstrings sucked, and it was time to do something about it. I'm happy to report that my effort worked. Here are the changes I made.
Train Hamstrings First
If your hamstrings are ever going to grow, you must focus as much of your concentration and energy on training them. This means either training them first, or on a separate day from quads. You'll be shocked at how much more weight you can handle on leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts almost immediately. Improvements will be noticeable in your hamstrings within a month.
Do Only Maintenance Work For Quads
Your quads have taken center stage for too long - give them a rest. Just do a couple sets of leg extensions, plus two or three sets of any pressing movement. That's it. They won't shrink, don't worry. In the meantime, your hamstrings will be able to catch up and give you fully developed legs.
Stretch And Flex Between Sets
I recommend getting a copy of the Parrillo Performance Training Manual if you don't already have one. Inside, you'll find not only dozens of variations and exercises for hamstrings you probably weren't aware of, plus illustrated instructions on fascial stetches to perform between sets. By flexing and then stretching after your sets, you'll allow more muscle growth to occur by breaking apart the tough, sheath-like fascial tissue that binds your muscles.
Believe In What You Are Doing
While it's true that our muscles grow as a result of the exercises we perform and the nutrients we consume, the mind and our attitude also play a significant role. If you believe that no matter what you do for a bodypart, it won't grow, then the odds are outstanding that you will fulfill this prophecy. If instead you take the attitude that from now on things are going to be different and truly believe that your efforts will yield success, then the odds become great that you will succeed.
By applying these methods, I brought my hamstrings up from being horrible to finally being respectable, and I'm not done yet. My hamstrings used to suck, but now I won't stop until they're great. If you can honestly evaluate your own hamstring development and come to the same conclusion as I did, get excited. You now have the strategy to make your hamstrings grow!